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Remarks for Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson United Nations Security Council Aviation Security Meeting - As Delivered

Release Date: 
September 22, 2016

First, I express my appreciation to the United Kingdom for bringing attention to the important issue of aviation security.  Thank you for your leadership on this issue.  I also wish to commend the work of the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, and its Secretary General, Dr. Fang Liu, on matters of aviation security.

I’m glad we are having this meeting.  I regard aviation security, today, as an urgent matter.  The resolution we just adopted refers to recent terrorist attacks on civil aviation as a matter of “grave concern.”  We agree with this characterization.

For us in the United States, the defining moment for aviation security was September 11, 2001.  A whole new government agency dedicated to transportation security, our Transportation Security Administration, or “TSA”, was created as a result.  Today in the U.S., TSA is the agency of our government that on a daily basis interacts most with the public.

The reality is that, today, there is a continuing international threat to aviation security, including a terrorist threat.  The recent attacks in Egypt, Somalia, Belgium, and Turkey demonstrate that the terrorist threat to aviation and airport security are as serious as ever.  As noted in the resolution, terrorist organizations continue to regard civil aviation as an attractive target for attacks.  This is fully consistent with our government’s assessment. Terrorist organizations continue to seek to exploit perceived gaps in our aviation security.

The good news is that, in recent years, the international community has taken significant steps to strengthen aviation security, and to restore public confidence in aviation.  There is more to do.

In the United States, TSA, led by the Administrator Peter Neffenger, has re-dedicated itself to its aviation security mission.  Our airlines have supported these efforts.

Two years ago, we enhanced security measures at international airports for flights bound to the United States.  I am pleased that other nations adopted similar enhancements. 

Since last year, following the crash of Metrojet 9268, we’ve focused on enhanced security around passengers, luggage, cargo and other items brought on flights bound for the United States. 

We are actively researching and investing in new aviation security technology to track current threats.

Our Congress has authorized us to donate aviation security equipment to other countries.

After years in which we reduced the number of TSA officers, we have reversed that trend and are hiring more.  We have converted large numbers of part-time TSA employees to full time.

We are adding more bomb-sniffing dogs to the aviation security mission.

We have embarked upon a program called TSA Pre-check to encourage passengers to submit to a background check in advance of their flight.

Earlier this year, in the face of increased air travel volume in the United States and longer lines at airport screening checkpoints, we refused to short-cut aviation security.

We are seeking more agreements with other nations to accept air marshals on commercial flights to and from the United States.

We are actively seeking more pre-clearance arrangements with governments around the world, by which our Customs officers are positioned overseas to screen passengers before they board flights to the United States.

We encourage other nations to re-dedicate themselves to the matter of aviation security.

We encourage increased information sharing on aviation security best practices among nations, and continued investment by other nations in aviation security technology.  Through ICAO, let’s also continue to standardize aviation security practices.

Then there is the related matter of foreign terrorist travel.  Foreign terrorist travel fuels the terrorist organization ISIL.  In 2014, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2178 to prevent the travel of foreign terrorist fighters.  This was a crucial first step.  We must continue progress to expand information sharing on known and suspected terrorists.  The United States continues to work with our international partners to promote the use of advance passenger information and passenger name record data to prevent foreign terrorist travel.

The global terrorist threat continues to evolve, and the international community must keep pace.

The United States strongly supports the resolution before us, and we encourage other nations to do so.  The resolution provides an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to aviation security and advance global standards to address the evolving terrorist threat.  The resolution sends a clear message: security for international flights is an issue of concern to the Security Council.  The resolution calls on all states to work within the established U.N. structures to develop more effective international standards for aviation security.  The resolution calls on all  States to urgently address any gaps or vulnerabilities, and that all States should work vigorously and swiftly to address States’ concerns about threats to flights between them.

I note, in particular, the provision in the proposed resolution that calls upon States to “ensure that measures take into account the potential role of those with privileged access to areas, knowledge or information that may assist terrorists in planning or conducting attacks.” 

We will continue to work with the U.N. and our international partners, and through ICAO, strengthen standards that keep the global aviation system safe and secure.

Thank you.

Last Published Date: September 22, 2016
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